There’s a new twist in the tale of one of the strangest objects in the sky.
About three billion light-years away, that mysterious object continually hurls humongous blasts of radio waves into the cosmos. Now, scientists have spied in those waves the spiraling signature of an extremely strong magnetic field, suggesting that the cosmic oddity exists in an intense galactic environment containing a powerfully magnetic source.
The discovery adds to astronomers’ understanding of phenomena known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs, which are magnificently energetic flashes of radio waves that last for mere fractions of a second. It also allows researchers to paint a clearer picture of what conditions are like in an incredibly distant corner of the universe.
“We’re directly probing the local environment of a source in a galaxy billions of light-years away,” says Emily Petroff of ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. “It’s like the power to zoom in at a billion times magnification on an extreme object somewhere else in the universe.”
While the exact source of the magnetism is unclear, it’s possible this FRB is next to a supermassive black hole, like the churning bruiser near our galaxy’s center, or swaddled in the chaotic aftermath of a stellar explosion. (Read more from “Mystery Radio Bursts From Space Just Got Even Weirder” HERE)